Rock the School Bells celebrates more than just hip-hop music


Courtesy of Will Nacouzi

Scholarship winners at RTSB.

Rock the School Bells celebrates its 10th anniversary by using hip-hop to teach students about the importance of pursuing higher education.

Positivity and joy filled the room while people from different cultural backgrounds bonded with one common interest: hip-hop music. Bldg. 6 was filled with people socializing, engaging in rap battles and surveying art on display. The attendees also enjoyed different types of food from various vendors.

CIPHER, the Center for Innovative Practices through Hip-Hop Education and Research, held its annual Rock the School Bells event on Saturday, March 11. The event emphasized the importance of hip-hop as a tool to guide leadership development and creativity through a series of art, workshops and panels, as well as dance and music.

Nathaniel Nevado, the head adviser for CIPHER stated that the goal of the event is to “use hip-hop as a framework where it is peace, love and unity.”

Matthew Ledesma, an adviser for CIPHER, highlighted keynote speaker Rosa Clemente.

“She spoke on the great details of not just learning about the history of oppression, but also of resistance of oppression,” Ledesma said.

The event recognizes hip-hop as more than just a genre of music, it acknowledges that it is also a form of self-expression and cultural identity. Hip-hop gives minorities a voice while the Rock the School Bells conference and CIPHER speak on the importance of utilizing that voice to inflict social change. Artists can convey a message through hip-hop and shine a light on social issues to the masses.

The Rock the School Bells conference also highlighted other serious topics such as sex, drugs, and black history. Other topics discussed included sneakers, apparel, dance and of course, music.

You can see the influence of the genre from hip-hop legends Grandmaster Flash to N.W.A to contemporary hip-hop artists like Kanye West. Not only do people of color have money and fame, they also have a responsibility of influence that can ignite change.

One side of the historical art display showed pieces of propaganda that depicted people of color in a negative way like posters from the Jim Crow era to magazines portraying people of color as savages.

The concert session consisted of performances by various acts, including the Skyline hip-hop dance team, The Large Professor, Third Root, and a number from Skyline’s Spring musical, “In the Heights.”

“Hip-hop allows us to provide an education that allows students and the youth to have ways to think critically about the issues around their community,” Nevado said about the CIPHER’s goal with Rock the School Bells. “They become empowered, becoming agents of change. They become scholar warriors.”

Six $500 scholarships were awarded to students who contribute to the legacy to help them further their education.

Nevado said he wants people to walk away from the event “recognizing [that] they have the power to be authentic and to be themselves.”